Have you ever wondered about lost cities? Do they paint a picture of lost treasure and adventure? Did you think they were just myth, fairytale or legend? What if we told you that some of the stories are true? The abandoned city of Varosha in Cyprus has been in the news recently because it has lain empty for 40 years following a dispute between Turkey to the north and Greece to the south. But there are now plans to rebuild it as an eco-city in an attempt to bring the two countries and their peoples together. Here we look at 10 of the most interesting lost or abandoned cities on the planet.
10. Varosha, Cyprus
In 1974 Cyprus was a hotbed of antagonism, and when the Turks invaded the then popular seaside resort of Varosha its residents fled for their safety. However, even after the fighting was over and the armies went home the resort, part of the city of Famagusta, remained abandoned and was left under military jurisdiction of the Turkish army.
Varosha was once an area that was the home to 25,000 people and with over 12,000 plush apartments. It was also a favourite celebrity haunt, frequented by A-list stars like Brigitte Bardot, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Today it has sat abandoned for more than 40 years, its tower blocks empty and its stunning beaches deserted — separated from the world by a rickety fence.
As mentioned above, expats from both sides and those living in the area hope to rebuild Varosha to create a cultural and economic center for the region and would boost a bottomed-out economy.
So far, both Greeks and Turks seem to agree that this could be the thing to kick-start the Cypriot economy and bring life to the island again.
9. Pripyat, Ukraine
Our journey through the world’s abandoned cities takes us next to the Ukraine, where there lies an entire city abandoned after the meltdown in 1986 of the reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear site.
Pripyat, as it was known, was built especially for the workers, engineers and administrators of the giant facility. Now pictures show a desolate abandoned city where children’s bicycles lie where they were left after the power plant exploded.
Empty playgrounds lie near deserted schools, and apartment complexes lie empty and vacant. There is even an entire amusement park, including bumper cars and ferris wheel, that lies forgotten in time. Some commentators claim Pripyat could be a testament to man’s folly and a warning of what is yet to come for humanity.
8. New Swabia, The South Pole
There are many myths and claims about this fabled place, an area between 20°E and 10°W in the area of Antarctica known as Queen Maud Land. Just before WWII, Germany mounted a massive undertaking there with ships, airplanes, men and submarines in a bid to explore the vast Antarctic continent and lay claim to part of it.
Massive shelters were built and many discoveries were made, one of which was hot water springs — in a place so cold that steel becomes brittle and can be shattered and where the wind blows with tornado-like ferocity.
NASA is now testing a prototype lunar building in these wastes because it is such a cold and foreboding place that it as close to the moon as you can get. Stories persist that some of the German installations are still there and are gargantuan in size.
7. Angkor in the Jungles of Cambodia
Another abandoned city complex is the famous city of Angkor in Cambodia, one of the largest city complexes ever discovered in south East Asia. It houses the equally famous Buddhist temple of Angkor Wat.
After invasion in the 15th century the city was just abandoned and left for the jungle to reclaim. Only in 2007 was it discovered, using advanced mapping and satellite technology, that the city actually stretches over 390 square miles making one of the largest cities ever created by man.
6. Kolmanskop, Namibia
This town is perhaps a tribute to the German ingenuity that can build a town in the middle of the desert in Africa. It was originally built to house those who would be taking from the ground some of the vast natural resources in the form of diamonds.
Now it is a home to scorpions and the sand that flows into open doors and windows. The Movie Theater is long since empty yet placards can still be seen there of pictures movies that faded from people’s memories just as this town has faded into the past.
Someday the sand will cover the entire town. Archaeologists in millenia to come will perhaps find Kolmanskop and wonder what became of its inhabitants.
5. Tikal, Guatemala
The only city to begin to rival Angkor is the ancient Mayan city of Tikal near Guatemala City, which flourished up until the 10th century when it was abandoned.
Its core covers an area of 6.3 square miles and consists of 3,000 separate structures many in an excellent state of preservation. Today, like many of the ancient Mayan cities, it is now open to the public and tour packages often include the city on their itinerary.
4. Seattle’s Underground ‘Ghost’ City
In the mid 1900s the street level of Seattle was built over and forgotten about except by bootleggers, smugglers and the poor. It became a city under a city which today many claim is haunted.
The exact reason why the covering up was done is not clear — some say it was due to the streets being elevated. Other darker stories hint of an evil that the residents of Seattle were trying to get away from.
However, for the last few decades it has been reopened and is a tourist attraction. But many say they still hear strange noises in the darkness.
3. Sanzhi UFO Houses, Taiwan
This resort town was built in 1978 with homes shaped like flying saucers. The modern homes were roomy and had all the amenities that you could wish for.
However, disaster struck when a sculpture of a dragon was damaged. Local legend claims that the sea dragons in the nearby sea cursed the town and deaths, car accidents and the collapse of the building company forced the abandonment of the area by the 1980.
Another story claims the souls of dead soldiers walk the region from a burial ground that the housing project supposedly is sitting on top of. The UFO houses are now gone and a new development is being built in their place. It remains to be see if that too will meet with unfortunate results.
2. Derinkuyu Underground City, Turkey
Turkey is a land of scenic beauty. But it also holds some of the greatest mysteries too. For instance, Derinkuyu — a city that once held 20,000 people but was built entirely underground.
It was likely first built in the 7th to 8th centuries, and no trace of it can be seen above ground. If you didn’t know it was there you would walk right on by. Legend has it that Derinkuyu was built by early Christians to hide from their persecutors. The city boasts rock doors that slide shut at a touch, hidden air conditioning vents bring in fresh air, and artesian wells supply water.
The age of the complex however predates Christianity. Some commentators claim it resembles a very modern bunker complex rather than a city and that perhaps its residents were afraid something from above.
Today we talk of drones or air strikes and those who fear them build downward. What would ancient peoples fear from the sky?
1. Kangbashi, Ordos, China
Here we have a city not abandoned by mysterious causes but by economic reasons. China has one of the most powerful economies on earth and is famous for its ability to build buildings and massive infrastructure projects. Sometimes, however, building out of a projected need rather than an actual need sometimes happens.
The Kangbashi project, in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, was started as a public works scheme for the wealthy coal-mining district — and was designed to house, feed and entertain a million people. But pretty much nobody lives there, just a few people dotted here and there.
Most of the 1.5 million residents of the Ordos area live in nearby Dongsheng. But the truly odd thing is that even though Kangbashi is virtually empty more buildings are being built and work continues on a giant art museum there. Could this be a lesson to cities like Detroit and Chicago, where one city that has fallen into default and another is tittering on the brink?
Despite Kangbashi being empty, Dongsheng is flourishing and the Ordos area is incredibly wealthy — ranking just behind Shanghai and ahead of Beijing. So at least the area is growing rather than collapsing of the weight of bureaucracy.